The Struggle for Liberty, Equality, and Property:

Examining Resistance to Exclusionary Policies Against Black People in Essex County

Highlights from a workshop that took place on March 27, 2021

The history of Black people’s experiences in Essex County, MA, including enslavement, “gradual emancipation,” and hard-fought access to fundamental rights, offers a rich set of stories for our students to explore. In this workshop, we examine how these experiences exemplify a larger history of structural policies of exclusion and prejudice, but also perseverance and change. In uncovering some of these stories, we explore how and why this history has often been hidden from view or distorted to fit more comfortable narratives, discussing implications for our students in today’s world.

The questions brought up during this workshop included:

  • What are some exemplary stories of Black people’s experiences in our region that highlight larger themes of exclusion and the fight for access?
  • How can primary sources from the region’s past as well as contemporary voices in the local Black community inform our understanding of how to approach this topic with our students?
  • How do examples of marginalized groups’ experiences in Essex County, Massachusetts illuminate how some histories have been “hidden” within our larger American story?
  • How can we help students connect with this history, keeping their voices and ideas at the forefront of our teaching?
  • How do we create a safe environment for difficult conversations about complex issues surrounding race, identity, and what it means to be “American,” especially through a local lens that will hit close to home?

While you are welcome to watch the entire workshop, as it was recorded on Zoom (except for the break out sections), here are some specific resources that may be useful for designing lesson plans.

Declaration of Independence lesson plan materials.

Casey Silot created a lesson using the workshop’s resources. The lesson’s materials include a lesson plan, a timeline of civil rights milestones, a worksheet on the Declaration of Independence (as printed in the American Gazette in 1776) and name tags for an in-class activity.

Video about Salem Poor (6 minutes)  created by North Andover High School student, Eamon O’Cearuil.

Discussion about the process of creating the Salem Poor project (5 minutes) North Andover High School student Eamon O’Cearuil and teacher Brian Sheehy.